The word ‘cocktail’ is thrown around with as much abandon as a flamboyantly flaring mixologist with a Boston shaker – but what does it mean; and, indeed, what are its origins? According to the The London Telegraph, the first instance of its use was in a satirical newspaper article about a party; although whether ‘cocktail’ referred to an alcoholic drink is contested. Vermont publication The Farmer’s Cabinet stakes another claim for the debut use of ‘cocktail’, suggesting in its pages on 28th April 1803 that ‘to drink a cocktail is excellent for the head.’
The Online Etymology Dictionary attributes the origin of ‘cocktail’ to a mispronunciation of the French word for egg cup, ‘coquetier’ (pronounced in English as ‘cocktay’); backed, perhaps, but the fact that Antoine Amédée Peychaud (he of the eponymous bitters brand) served brandy mixed with bitters in eggcups at his late eighteenth-century New Orleans apothecary.
A second theory holds that the name is derived from the term ‘cock tailings’; referring to the debatably delicious practice of tavern owners combining the dregs (‘tailings’) of barrels together into a single elixir to be sold at knock-down prices, drawn from the spigot of a barrel – its ‘cock’.
On 13th May 1806, newspaper Balance and Columbian Repository defined a cocktail as, ‘a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind – sugar, water, and bitters.’ This date is now recognised as World Cocktail Day, an occasion on which drinkers commemorate the first recognised publication of the word’s definition.
All information courtesy of Good Things Magazine